Friday, June 5, 2009

Just a walk in the Ruahines with Charlie

Winter has arrived with a vengeance here in Aotearoa and the weekend had brought frost and even a bit of snow to the low foothills of the Tararua's which lie above Palmerston North. A very nice sight to be sure, usually gazed upon as I made trips to and from the wood pile. Late in the morning Charlie and I again got a bit ansty sitting indoors and we decided to go find some snow he could actually get into and amongst. Having grown up in Wisconsin being in snow is something that even now never really occurs to me as being a unique experience - I spent hours and hours shoveling the stuff, and it was just part and parcel with growing up in the north mid west. So I have to recognize the little boy inside me to really SEE Charlie at times. So we jumped in my car and off we went.

I love driving and Listening to tunes. Really Listening and focusing in on the music and letting it flow through me. Sometimes driving alone I can turn the music up Real Loud and have almost mystical experiences, find myself laughing, crying, shouting or banging on the dash board, which must be a real sight to those passing by should they happen to notice. Oh well.

In Charlie I have found a true tunes soul mate! Before we even get out of the driveway he is picking the cd and exactly which particular songs he wants to hear, and in what order. Then he turns it up real loud and Listens! He sits with a such a look of concentration on his beautiful face and sings all the words, laughs at his favourite bits, then concentrates once again. We don't have to talk, yet we are, we are together, we are communicating. I love being with such people.

Charlie chose Van Morrison's new cd, Astral Weeks - Live from the Hollywood Bowl, a sort of remake of Van's classic 1968 cd, now rated on most "lists" as one of the top 50 cd's of all time. It did impact the late 60's world of music, heavily influencing groups and people such as The Band, Tim Buckley, Bob Dylan, and a young Tom Russell and also Elvis Costello. Not to mention a host of newer generation artists including Jeff Buckley, Ray Lamontagne, and the Secret Machines. It is a pretty cool album, both the old and new version, and Charlie has very good taste for a six year old boy. We drove on through the Manawatu Gorge, each in our own thoughts. Which was good as I had, like so many people these days, a lot on my mind.

We never did find the snow, though it was indeed there up higher a bit further north and out of our reach on this day. We had left it a bit too late, and though it was still a very damp cold New Zealand winter day, the snow had melted.

We went for our walk anyway, up a track called Coppermine creek, about 30 minutes or so from home and just past Woodville into the ranges on the very southern end where they are separated from the Tararua's by the aforementioned Manawatu gorge.

I used to take Taylor here when he was little, but that was many years ago and I had not been back since then. It climbs up to some old caves dug out by hearty miners seeking copper, and then on up to the tops of the southern Ruahine along a spur above Coppermine creek. A very nice place to while away a few hours. The caves have been mostly filled in but one can still get a taste of what these guys must have endured trying to find the mother lode, which they never did locate, or even enough to make it viable. Apparently the caves still do contain some fantastic specimens of weta, a large rather prehistoric looking insect native to New Zealand. Charlie and I did not venture into what is left of the caves as I tend to not enjoy extremely closed in places with my large frame.

It is so amazing to reconnect with that simplicity and wonderment I feel in the mountains, even if only on a short walk with Charlie. Watching him ramble ahead of me I felt every bit the child I was watching. And these things which have been troubling me, some very difficult decisions to be made, become more tolerable, the reality of here and now, of this moment, comes into sharp and beautiful focus. I realize that whatever decision is made it will be okay, because it is not just "I", it is 'We" - my beautiful wife, my sons, family and friends, and these wonderful wild places. We are all in this together.
I am trying something new here and putting a song on by Van Morrison. It is not on his new album but is done by his new band. Called "The Healing has Begun", and off his 1979 album Into the Music, it is my all time favourite Van tune, a song of redemption, healing and love. My wonderful friend Robin recently wrote a post asking when we had become Aware. One of those moments for me was finally Listening to music which awoke my slumbering soul. This was the song.

There is always much for me to learn about being a father. But I do know a little bit about boys and water and I knew, ultimately that the stream below us would draw Charlie to it like a magnet. I also knew enough to chuck a few extra clothes in the boot of the car in the likelihood of such an encounter between boy and stream. He had a great time splashing around, so did I.

On our way back home and for the return trip Charlie chose the new album by Gary Louris and Mark Olson, Ready for the Flood. They had played a show in Wellington at a bar not long ago and Tara insisted I go as she could not. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen, and I have seen a few. Afterwards I waited around a bit sipping on a beer at the bar just enjoying the moment, and both Gary and Mark emerged from backstage and I got to meet them, even discovered we have some mutual friends, and just had a very enjoyable chat. So watching Charlie absorb these tunes as we drove along singing along is a moment that will always be with me. I shall share one more tune here, by Mark and Gary and off their wonderful new album, Ready for the Flood, called The Traps Been Set. Listen and enjoy.

Charlie tucked in for the night in my sleeping bag which he wanted to snuggle up in after our days adventure.

Aroha to you All.